February 27, 2011

Spicy Pineapple-Pork Stir-Fry

Like I've said before, I like to combine fruit flavors with meat, especially poultry and pork.   I've recently been experimenting with lime, but a few nights ago, I decided to try something combining pork and pineapple.

After considering various options, I decided to make a stir-fry with pork, chunks of pineapple and (for color and to make a more complete meal) snow peas, and to use pineapple juice as the foundation of a flavorful sauce.   Rather than try to design a dish in the style of any particular cuisine, I decided to just go free-form, so I could focus on selecting ingredients that would go along well with pineapple and pork.  Some were a given - ginger and tamari sauce, for example - but as I considered options, I decided I wanted to use a mix of savory, sour and salty flavors to balance out the sweetness of the pineapple.  I also decided to give the dish a bit of heat, courtesy of some Asian hot chili oil and some sweet chili sauce.  All that remained was to round out the flavors a bit, which I did with Chinese five-spice powder (to add some depth to the sauce) and some shallots.

I'm not sure what else to say about this one, other than that it blew us both away.   As I designed the recipe, I expected it would be pretty good, but the delightful scents hinted from pretty early on that this was going to be more than just "pretty good."  The pork smelled wonderful as I browned it in tamari and the hot chili oil, and the pineapple smelled even better as it cooked.   Toward the end, the scent of ginger mingling with the chili sauce and five-spice powder were literally mouthwatering, but none of that really prepared us for how good the first bite would be.

My original recipes aren't always a home run, but this time I knocked it out of the park.   Try it and see.

Spicy Pineapple-Pork Stir-Fry

yield = 4 servings

1 1/2      pounds pork loin, sliced thin and against the grain
2            teaspoons tamari (or regular soy sauce)
1/2         teaspoon Asian hot chili oil
3            tablespoons peanut oil
1/4         cup sweet chili sauce
2            teaspoons cornstarch
1            teaspoon lemon juice
3/4         teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/4         teaspoon table salt
12          ounces fresh snow peas, trimmed
1            can (20 ounce) pineapple chunks in juice,
              drained and juice reserved
1            shallot, peeled and minced
2            teaspoons minced garlic
1            tablespoon grated, fresh ginger

Toss the pork slices with tamari and hot chili oil.   Heat two tablespoons peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until smoking, then add the pork.   Allow the pork to brown on one side, then stir and continue to cook until most of the pork is lightly browned on both sides.  Transfer pork to a clean bowl and set aside.

While the pork is browning, stir together the reserved pineapple juice, sweet chili sauce, cornstarch, lemon juice, five-spice powder and salt in a small bowl, then set aside.

Add the last tablespoon of peanut oil to the same skillet.  Add the snow peas and pineapple chunks and stir-fry until the snow peas and pineapple pieces have started to brown. 

Clear a spot in the center of the skillet and add the shallot and garlic.  Cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds), then add the ginger, stir everything together and cook 1 minute.   Return the pork to the skillet, stirring to mix it in.

Add the pineapple juice mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until it thickens and coats the pork and vegetables (about 1 minute).  Serve with rice. 

The easiest-to-find example of Asian hot chili oil is probably also the best on the market:  House of Tsang's Mongolian Fire Oil.  It's as good as, or better than, any version you'll find in an Asian grocery, but a lot easier to find, as it is stocked by most major supermarket chains in the US. 

By thoroughly draining the canned pineapple, you should get about one cup of pineapple juice, which is what you need for the sauce.  If you don't get that much pineapple juice from the canned pineapple, add enough pineapple juice to bring the amount to one cup.

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